Senator Tells Lawmakers She's Getting An Abortion To Highlight Reality Of Restrictive Laws

“I’m the perfect example of why this decision should be between patients and providers.”

On Monday, Arizona Sen. Eva Burch, currently serving her first term representing Arizona’s 9th district, took to the floor in support of abortion access in the state, and chose to make her point in a deeply personal speech. The senator shared that she is currently pregnant, but will be terminating her pregnancy.

“I don’t know how many of you know this but a few weeks ago I learned that, against all odds, I am pregnant,” she told her colleagues. “I wish I could tell you otherwise, but after numerous ultrasounds and blood draws we have determined that my pregnancy is once again not progressing and is not viable, and once again I have scheduled an appointment to terminate my pregnancy.”

She continued, “I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions but I’m choosing to talk about why I made this decision because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world.”

Burch explained that she had struggled with fertility issues throughout her adult life. She had her first miscarriage 13 years ago and had been pregnant multiple times since. Only two went to term, and she is the mother of two sons. In 2022, a planned, very much wanted pregnancy was determined to be non-viable, and Burch opted for an abortion, just weeks before the reversal of Roe v. Wade temporary halted the procedure in the state. She then went on to explain what’s been different about this second abortion experience.

“My medical provider was forced to tell me multiple things that don’t apply to my situation, and some that are just transparently factually false,” she said, “and they do this because of laws passed by this legislature in opposition to medical expert testimony and advice. From where I sat, the only reason I had to hear those things was in a cruel and really uninformed attempt by outside forces to shame and coerce and frighten me into making a different decision other than the one that I knew was right for me. ... I’m the perfect example of why this decision should be between patients and providers.”

The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization seeking to advance sexual and reproductive health rights in the U.S., ranks Arizona’s abortion laws as “very restrictive.” Abortion is banned after 15 weeks and requires patients to make two trips to obtain the procedure, one for in-person counseling and another at least 24 hours later for the abortion. Patients also require an ultrasound, regardless of medical necessity. In Burch’s case, she noted this was a transvaginal ultrasound, which many patients find invasive, uncomfortable, or even traumatizing.

Currently, the Arizona Supreme Court is considering a law from 1864, which has remained on the books but unenforced, that would impose a near total ban on abortions. The sole exception would be to save the life of the mother. In response, lawmakers and activists in support of reproductive rights are urging Arizona to enshrine a right to abortion up to the point of fetal viability (around 24 weeks gestation), with allowances after that for the physical or mental health of the mother, into the state constitution. If the cause can garner 384,000 signatures from registered voters by July, the question will be put on the 2024 ballot, making Arizona the first state in the nation to put this question directly to voters.

Burch told the Associated Press that since her speech, she has received an outpouring of sympathy, support, and questions. She said she hopes that by sharing her experience, she can help normalize conversation around the issue of abortion and what lawmakers often overlook when drafting legislation that inhibits access to the procedure.

“What’s happening to me is extremely common,” Burch told the Associated Press in an interview after her speech. “Pregnancy failure is common and that there are any number of reasons, of scenarios, of situations that someone might find themselves in where abortion is the right decision for them.”